Sunday, January 24, 2010


The road from Waitaki to Greymouth is long, winds over two mountain ranges and is spectacularly scenic. I drove over it this week end to attend a memorial service for a teaching associate of long ago. Her five children have all grown into fine adults who organised their mother's service wonderfully well. The Minister of Education sent a letter of condolence which would have amused Gwen hugely because she was a committed Labour supporter when we taught at the same schools in Rotorua. Greymouth's big Church of the Holy Trinity was packed on a blazingly hot summer day and at the end of the service many local people went forward to pay personal tributes.
This is mine


In those days we were young
eager, intelligent, but
we did what was expected of us
we married, had babies, disappeared
from all important fields of endeavour.

We baked cakes to build Kindergartes
knitted and sewed to clothe our families
on our husbands' inadequate incomes,
cooked and set dinner on the table
when our husbands came home.
It was expected of us.

When our children started school
there were not enough teachers
so we did what was expected of us
we still knitted and sewed and baked
to raise funds for crowded schools
where we taught children to read
and write and calculate and
above all to love learning
while still keeping our homes pristine
it was expected of us.

You did all this and somewhere you
developed the habit of helping
your neighbours when they needed it.
and you never lost that habit.

Knowing you dear Gwen
I expected it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Writers' Groups

Among my Christmas gifts were two anthologies,IRIDESCENT BLUE from Horowhenua Writers' Group, and QUILL by Wairarapa Writers. In spite of the jibes made by people who cannot be bothered thinking I found both books enjoyable reading, the sort one can keep by the bed and dip into, anjoying small sips of literary delight.To quote Alexander Jeune in Iridescent Blue, 'sipping Earl Grey from a cracked cup'.
Both anthologies have work by well known and published writers, like Shirley Corlett who writes prize-winning novels for young adults. Her spoof about Cinderella's encounter with her fairy godmother would not shame Terry Pratchett. Her poetry is well crafted with an ascerbic aftertaste. But there are delights by lesser known writers too, like Lola Ogg's Parliamentary Lettuce, full of subtle puns. In Iridescent Blue Sue Parker's story about a pair of 'Poms' in Crete is funny, brilliantly crafted.

So why not join a writers' group in 2010? There is absolutely nothing short of chilbirth to lift the spirits with the joy of creation. English writer Dave Swann tutors a writing group in Nottingham Goal. He talks of the unbeliving delight he sees when someone who has been illiterate sees his own work in print.

I tutor groups of old people who are writing the stories of their lives. They might never be published, although Radio New Zealand has an interesting slot called 'As I remember' but once they are written down the stories of what it was like to live in our times are there for people in the future to discover. One of the ladies living in a rest home in Massachussetts remarked to me, 'When an old persoon dies it's as though a full library has burned down.' Think abot that.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


My projected odyssey to Crete is stretching further and further. Next May I will be stopping off in Darwin, Australia to attend their International Literary Festival, WORDSTORM. As well as indiginous Astralian writers there will be many from surrounding countries, like Indonesia, discussing the place for women in Islam, and what writers can do about global warming.
Then my grand daughter in Canberra suggests I stop off with her for Writers and Readers Week of their festival. If things keep cropping up like this I am going to need those three months in Kissamos to recover'

My Greek is gradually expanding. I have now learned that a formal greeting is 'keritay' but casual hello or goodbye is 'ya su'. As for 'Kalimera' that seems to have disappeared when the Lotus Eaters stopped screening. I can now say 'I speak a little Greek, but not very well,' and 'I am not American,' both useful phrases I am sure, and truthful!

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I jokingly refer to my travels as my 'ski holidays' i.e. Spending the Kids' Inheritence. My wonderful sons told me years ago that they expected me to spend all the small capital their father and I amassed over our working lives in my own lifetime. and I am doing my best.

My neighbour, who tries to emulate his hero Victor Meldrew, tells me I am 'wasting money that should be spent on the poor and needy.' Well I receive two small incomes, one is the pension to which I have contributed all my working life, and the other my Government Superannuation, amassed by paying into a fund, that reduced my income. Now when my two pensions are paid into my bank, instead of putting them under my mattress, or hoarding them in a low interest bank account, I RE-CIRCULATE them, by meeting friends for lunch in town, if we oldies did not patronise the Star & Garter and other nice eating houses in Oamaru they would eventually have to lay off staff,adding to the poor and needy. Likewise the nice lady who cuts my hair and Kerry, the clever Travel Agent who sorts out my flights and hotels when I am overseas. If I stayed at home my bank balance would grow, but Oamaru's net income would shrink.

Well that's my excuse anyway.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I took down all the Christmas cards. I didn't put up any decorations this year, maybe when the winter solstice arrives I shall fill my crib with pine boughs and holly. That makes more sense, celebrating the lengthening hours of daylight, we need a bit of celebration then. But I shall be in Crete, sunbathing under the grapevine in my patio.
And I finished reading the books I bought with the tokens I was given. And at least one of them was a treasure, as in well written, funny, readable. No, it was not 'Over & Out From Down Under' W.D.DaviesISBN 978-0-473-15851-4 NZ$12.50. It was THE LIFE & DEATH OF LAURA FRIDAY AND OF PAVAROTTI,HER PARROT. by David Murphy, ISBN 978-1-86950-700-8 . Published byHarper Collins. I found it on the $10 table at the Warehouse, AND IT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN THERE!!! When is New Zealand going to recognise our talented writers and buy their books so that we don't find them on throw out tables.
David Murphy writes like Ronald Hugh Morrieson, or Gaylene Gordon would if they were living in the 21st century. Dare I say 'Carl Stead with a sense of humour?' It is is a densely woven, picaresque but kind look at small town New Zealand, plus a view of young Kiwis on their O.E.s in the eighties.
I could go on praising 'Laura Friday etc.' but what I want to say is:
OH HOW I WISH I COULD WRITE A STORY HALF AS GOOD (and don't forget I came second to Maurice Shadbol in the 1995 Mansfield awards.)
David Murphy lives in Greytown, that snobbush little blot on the landscape between Featherston and Carterton. He even mentions the tree pushed over the Rimutakas in a wheelbarrow, but changed it from a eucalyptus to an oak. And he has some very perceptive comments about Irish Catholics who settled here.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010


My neighbour calls each evening at 7p.m. We probably look like something out of a Chaplin movie, Mars if he was humanwould be ninety, almost blind and deaf, me trying to ignore torn hligaments in my left leg, and my neightbour recovering from a beart bypass, setting off down Kaik Road towards the sunset.Don has appointed himself my personal trainer and tells me if I want to walk the Imbross I need to cover the 3.29 kilometres from our gate to the railway line and back TWICE a day by April. We go a little further each day. I think our greatest problem is whether or not Mars' paws will last out.

Raindrops are falling from the leaves of my grapevine and the roses are glowing with that aspecial light they get in this southern twilight. I must have done something really good in a past life to have ended up in this paradise.

Monday, January 4, 2010


I was sitting in my crib (Otago for small house) enjoying a very funny book, The Life and Death of Laura Friday abd of Pavarotti her parott, by David Murphy, a Kiwi writer, when my neighbour apeared at my door with his elderly springer spaniel,
"Come on, Walkies.' he ordered. He has appointed himself my personal trainer and tells me I must aim at walking the length of Kaik Road (2.9 ks)and back TWICE A DAY. At least I don't have to sniff fence posts and do disgusting things in the grass like Mars does, and I do feel better after a walk.

And I can say 'Good morning Sir/Madam/Miss, how are you? Where is Victory Street? Is it over there?' IN GREEK. When I get to Kisamos I shall sit in a cafe there and listen for the first month until I find myself thinking in Greek, and then I shall join in the conversation, carefully.

If any fellow Kiwis are reading this, if you enjoyed Ronald Hugh Morrieson's books do look at 'The Life and Death of Laura Friday etc.' David Murphy lives in Greytosn, that snobby little blot on the landscape between Featherston and Carterton. The book is set in a typcal NZ town, probably in West Auckland where everybody grows their own 'weed.' Even the blurb on the back cover is good for a laugh.
Author: David Murphy
Published:Harper Collins 2008
ISBN;97 1 86950 700 8

It's funny and outrageous, just the way I wish I could write.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Guess what I got for Christmas?

A Pukalooloo Pakeha’s New Year Wish

Choice Kiwi, excellent dude.
May your year be hunky dory
sweet as fish n chips with vegemite
and pavlova to follow

when you rattle your jandals may
all the hoons and boy racers pack
a sad and bugger off on a tiki tour
to the wop wops for yonks.

may your chilly bin be choc-a-bloc
with L&P, hokey pokey ice cream
and ice cold D.B. from sparrow fart
until the good-night kiwi calls.

Cheers Bro

Bro – term used between Maori males
hunky dory- as right as things will ever be
sweetas- choice, delicious, enjoyable, hunky dory
pavlova- a New Zealand dessert made with egg white and sugar which Australia keeps trying to claim, but we thought of it first
rattle your dags- an Australian vulgarism, but we being more refined rattle our jandals or gumboots depending on the weather
jandals- Australians called them ‘thongs’ until the Brits redesigned knickers
hokey pokey - N.Z’s favourite ice cream until some wanker thought of rum & raisin.
wanker- term of abuse, hints at dubious sexual habits.
chilly bin- keeps things cold on hot beaches
L&P – Lemon & Paeroa, once made from fresh lemons and soda water from Paeroa, useful for putting in the chilly bin for people too young to drink D.B.
D.B. – beer made by DOMINION BREWERIES which men scull by the tinful.
sparrow fart – sunrise
Goodnight Kiwi- sign off tune in the days when the government thought everybody should go to bed at 10p.m. and switched off the T.V.stations.
yonks – ages, about twenty minutes
wop wops – rural areas e.g.Taumaranui, Otaki or Stewart Island.


I try to stick a New Zealand flag on myself somewhere when I am abroad because it is an easy identification for other Kiwis. Number 5 son says he has no difficulty identifying Kiwi women abroad because we all have such big bums, but I prefer other identification. A flag on my day bag has led to some interesting encounters: e.g.
Stuttgart Railway Station 1991: 'What part of New Zealand are you from?'
'Really? I'm from Martinborough.'
Vancouver Bus 1991: Driver 'Hey, you from Noo Zeeland? What part?'
Me 'You probably haven't heard of it,Featherston in the Wairarapa.'
Driver 'No kidding! You know the ****s down Western Lake Road? I stayed with them last year.'

Lyons, FRANCE: Lady on bus,seeing the flag on my backpack; "Vous ete Australie?"
Me (determined not to mention the Rainbow Warrior :"Non, Nouvelle Zealande."
She looks uncomprehending, so I get out by trip book and show her on the map.
"Ah!" she exclaims, comprehension dawning, New Zealand! Le Rainbow Warrieure!'

In 2008 one of the ferries along the south west coast of Crete broke down and blocked Loutro Bay. Eight hours later the Daskalogiannis picked us up on its last trip of the day. The upper decks were full so we stood with our backpacks and cases in the car deck. But in that conglomeration of people were Doug and Rose from Arrowtown.When we reached Sfakia Doug carried my bag while Rose hurried ahead and identified the Chania bus amongst some thirty waiting vehicles, and waved me goodbye before finding their own tour bus.
The angels I believe in have nothing to do with religion. The do not have wings.They are very real, very human, and probably their potential exists in everybody.